Copyright © 2009 A.Matheson. All Rights Reserved.
Feedback: good/bad/ugly, all welcome if constructive. Though flattery is sought.
Disclaimers: This is my first submission, be gentle. Though I have frequented most of the places depicted, much of it has been fictionalised. The story is set in a non-specific time frame, though is loosely based on slightly futuristic time, as in tomorrow, since that’s when most things are going to happen. There will be discrepancies. It is artistic license. At some point I have done most of what these characters do, don’t judge me, I live in the real world, and that’s roughly where these people live too J
Language: Plenty. Often bad. But not too offensive.
by Antonia Matheson
Fix blind—Kill pigeons
A groan aimed at the sunshine. It beamed through the broken blind that was merely pretending to cover the skylight above.
“I really have to do something about that,” a dry British drawl mumbled from beneath white cotton linen. The blonde-headed figure shuffled over to the cooler side of the bed, sliding in neatly next to the form that was already occupying it.
“Mmmmm,” groaned the second figure in response as the first pulled her closer, nuzzling the back of her neck.
Then started the tapping. Tap. Tap—tap. Tap—tap—tap. And then there was a flutter. Followed by a long, low, soft cooing. Just one coo at first, then quickly a definite clutter.
The first figure snatched down the sheet that had been pulled over her head.
“And that! I have to do something about that!”
She frowned angrily at the dirty pigeon tail feathers that could be seen through her early morning squint, flitting from side to side above her.
Half sitting up the mess of blonde shouted, “Shut up and stop shitting on my window!” then threw a pillow after her words. “It's…” she craned her neck to look at the old shutter clock on her bedside table, and sighed, “…6.36am. Oh god, is that all?” Her head hit the pillow she hadn't thrown with another groan.
The female form beside her was gently shuddering in silent giggle.
“It’s not funny,” the pillow thrower told her grouchily, attempting once again to settle back down into further slumber.
“No, it’s not,” the giggler lied, snaking an ebony arm toward her early morning bundle of anger, and pulling her into a lethargic tangle of limbs.
Irritation was soothed, turning quickly into lazy arousal.
“Baby, I need to sleep some more,” the soother apologised.
Senses slowly awakened it dawned on the slightly crabby, and now utterly frustrated early-riser, the futility of trying to catch another hour of sleep. The American beside her needed rest, and didn’t seem to be having any trouble getting it. Petulantly the pigeon-hater wriggled from beneath the covers and perched herself on the edge of the large oak bed, silently cursing her feathered neighbours, and her now sleeping companion.
She arched her back, hearing the familiar muted spinal clicking that eased the aching, and stretched her arms above her head with great effort. With one last glare to the birds, she hauled herself up and padded off down to the bathroom. There was a brief glance spared to the bleary eyes in the mirror before flicking on the shower.
Oh to have the luxury of working from home everyday, she thought as she let the lukewarm water freshen up her skin.
I could do half my day's jobs before lunch and still watch Trisha. Or Jude Judy.
She had been back in the country for more than six years now, but it was still hard to shrug off the need for early morning English TV. Sometimes even Dale Winton was missed. She shuddered at the thought. Supermarket Freak!
It was hotter than usual for this time of year. The water she would usually fear to step beneath was doing a good job of cooling her current irritation. She stood and simply enjoyed the sensation, closing her eyes, wishing she were still horizontal, and that the woman in her bed didn’t need to sleep.
Having thrown on a pair of shorts and a tee, she grabbed some change, flipped on the kettle, and slipped into some sandals before heading out of her well-cooled top floor apartment.
The moment she opened the heavy front door, searing heat hit her, full in the face.
Stifling as it was she had no intention of dawdling. She looked across the roof garden she shared, noting it was now vacated, and there were no residents to wave good morning to.
She sighed. Only I get up at stupid o’clock on a Saturday.
Hurrying down the exterior stairway, she paused as she reached the final floor where the mailboxes were housed, thankfully in the shade.
Stevie, the building's long serving porter, had pushed the little door on her mail indicator to read ‘new mail’. She always found the mailboxes funny here, like old metal relics trying to be internet-worthy. Smiling to herself she opened the box marked ‘K. Hart’ and scooped up a small bundle of letters.
Shuffling through them briefly she thought they mostly looked liked bills, mostly. She stuffed them back in the box and headed down the rest of the balcony steps to the courtyard, rubbing at her left eye, which hadn't yet woken up properly.
Giving Doris, her kooky yellow Datsun car, a fond scratch behind the wing mirror, she headed off down the street, without her.
“Hey Miss Kay.”
Walter ran the newspaper stand a few blocks from her apartment, he saw her almost every morning when she was home. His big round face always lit up when he saw the pretty exec. She never failed to make nice, and often left him a tip, and some good gossip to boot.
“Hey, your friend made front page this week, hey?” his Italian accent burred.
“My friend?” she was absentmindedly fumbling for change for the morning paper.
“Yeh, the news lady?”
Kirstin’s ears pricked. Squinting in the sun, she tried to act casual, “Really?”
“Ah-ha!” Walter handed her a copy of a glossy magazine.
“Well shit!” she exclaimed at the familiar, and undeniably beautiful, brown eyes staring back at her from the cover.
“She looks pretty, no? Miss Novello does?”
“She sure does, Walt, she sure does. Listen, why don’t I go ahead and take one of these too? This the only one?”
It was a query that rolled lazily from North Eastern lips, gently permeating the living room as the orator made her way with intent toward the kitchen.
The addressee neither looked up, nor responded in any way directly. Instead she slowly dragged her favourite mug across the coffee table before raising it to her lips in order to let it do the talking.
“Moooo!” went the cow-shaped mug, its owner neglecting to further embellish. Instead she stared at the magazine page she had open in front of her.
The mug owner’s girlfriend, by now busying herself in the kitchen, paused briefly before continuing to pour milk for her own cup of coffee.
“Are you mad at me for some reason? Did I do something?” Like stay in bed, she wondered.
Instinct told her that the owner of the mug was displaying body language indicating she was in some way upset. The stiffness in her back was most worrying. Bags of breakfast food sat on the counter, untouched. Again, this was worrying, and most unusual. Indeed the general silence from the seated woman was perturbing, “Kirstin?”
Kirstin looked up at her from where she was sitting and cocked her head before repeating the questions in quiet contemplation.
“Am I mad at you?”
Pause for thought.
“Did you do anything wrong?”
Exaggerated biting of lower lip.
“No. No, not at all. I’m just a little pissed that I haven’t gotten my wedding invite yet, Grace.”
Grace didn’t need the heavy sarcasm, or the very clipped English tone, to sense the danger in the air. She decided however not to over-react too soon, until she knew what she might be dealing with.
“What?” she asked tentatively as she reached for the coffeepot.
“You know, the wedding that you have planned for early spring? When you and your fiancé,” she peered over the article in order to read from it, “Mr Pratt, how apt, finally tie the knot.”
Grace had now frozen mid-coffee-pour, catching herself just in time to successfully avoid covering the counter with hot liquid. It splashed a little.
“Fuck!” she breathed, looking down at the now steaming surface while wiping her slightly scolded hand on the top of her flannel sweat pants hurriedly.
Kirstin was less than sympathetic, her brow darkened, “Don’t tell me you’d forgotten about this man I’ve never seen before in my entire life?”
Grace shook her head a little confused, abandoning the coffee and instinctively moving towards Kirstin. But Kirstin pre-empted her by picking up the magazine and throwing it down on the counter before her, narrowly missing the spilled coffee.
Grace looked at it, momentarily startled, dark brown eyes adjusting to the words before her.
“They weren’t supposed to be running this yet,” she whispered nervously, shaking her head.
“So you knew about it?” Kirstin accused.
It was too late for Grace to deny it.
“I was told they were working on some stories to throw the press off the scent…” her voice trailed off.
“My scent by any chance?”
Grace ignored the pained derision she could hear in her partner’s voice, and pulled the magazine closer, turning the page to read further ‘revelations’.
“It was just in case they got too close to the truth.”
Grace seemed more irritated by Kirstin’s queries, than she was angry at the article.
“They were never supposed to run any damned stories without consulting me!” Her eye then ran across to the pictures, “Oh my god…” she breathed.
Kirstin was suddenly impatient, “Who the fuck is he, Grace? You’re hanging off his goddamned arm!”
“Oh, it’s George! Oh, well that’s okay then. Who the fuck is George?!”
Grace was still distracted by the article, “The weather man for channel seven,” she answered matter-of-factly.
Her girlfriend’s voice dropped nearly an entire octave.
“Weatherman?” She was now also unable to believe the stupidity of trying to patronise a nation into believing this Pratt of a weatherman was straight.
It was enough to draw Grace’s attention back to her.
“He’s gay Kirstin. That’s why they said it would be mutually beneficial.”
“Oh yeh, I’m sorry, somehow I keep forgetting how covering up who you are is supposed to be a good thing.”
The mocking tone caused a perfectly plucked eyebrow to rise.
“Don’t start this again,” Grace stated flatly.
“Don’t start this again? Grace…” she took a breath, briefly scrunching her face up. She shook her head free of the pure anger that was lurking. “My girlfriend is in Time Magazine announcing her engagement! Not only did I not know about it, but it seems neither did she!”
“Kirstin it’s just one damn article!”
Kirstin turned and walked back to the coffee table to pick up what Grace suddenly realised was a whole pile of magazines. One by one she threw them down in front of her, naming each one as she did so.
When the last one hit the surface Grace screwed up her face, “Oh God.”
“This is serious Grace, we have a very big problem.”
“Shit. I know,” she breathed. “I know. Fuck. And my mom’s gonna think it’s true…”
“Screw your mother G! I can’t live like this. Do you hear me? Time and Time Magazine again, I can’t take it.”
Now Grace seemed a little worried, she turned all of her attention to the women before her whose anxiety was obvious, “Kirstin I swear, I didn’t authorise this.”
The breakfast counter separating the two women found Kirstin leaning confrontationally over it.
“Well it doesn’t seem like anyone takes you very seriously. Maybe these people are saving your career Grace, but they are killing our relationship. Over and over—again and again.” She looked at Grace who was by now frowning deeply, like a kid being told off. It looked strange on the usually elegant and composed woman. She softened slightly. “I can’t go through this again. You promised me things would change, you keep promising me, and they never do.” Her exasperation was evident.
“Kirstin… it’s not that simple, I want to, I, I just…”
The blond women waited for the explanation that she knew would never be satisfactory, or indeed very forthcoming. She sighed heavily. “Grace, I have to jump off this roller coaster.”
“What?” Grace was dazed, “What does that mean?” her voice was filled with a mixture of annoyance and worry.
“It means,” she shook her head, her jaw locking with the pain of the words she had in mind. “It means if you can’t be with me, the way I want you to be, then…”
“Kirstin, no! I am trying!”
“No, Grace, you’re not, you’re ignoring it. You’re letting them think it’s okay to do this to us. And it’s not.”
“I’ll make this right,” her eyes pleaded, “How do I make this right?”
Kirstin slowly shook her head, “You don’t,” she looked defeated, “You can’t.”
The two women stared at one-another. They had been at this juncture many times before now, but there was a hurt laced with defiance in Kirstin that Grace had never seen up until now. It was about to punch her full-force in the gut.
“I want your stuff out of here by the end of the week.” She pushed off the counter and started for the stairs.
Grace eye’s widened, “You’re not serious?!”
Kirstin stopped and swung back round to her.
“I am deadly serious. See, that’s part of the problem—you just don’t take me seriously. This is not a hollow threat. It’s not a threat at all. I am breaking up with you. And this time Grace, don’t even bother trying to win me back unless your face is on the cover of that fucking magazine with the headline ‘America’s first black lesbian anchor women’ all over it!” Her eyes flared, “You get me?”
“Fuck you!” Grace hissed, a stream of tears streaking down her face.
“Fuck you,” Grace repeated less audibly through her pain. “I love you, isn’t that enough?”
Kirstin looked at the woman before her, feeling the constant strain of the sway between what her heart wanted, and what her head could cope with.
“No. It’s not,” she answered with a certainty she had never before felt. It took the wind out of her, the words being spoken out loud, “But you knew that already,” she added sadly.
Grace sped around the counter and grabbed a hold of Kirstin by the wrists. She searched the now hardened face before her.
“Don’t do this Kay,” she begged desperately. “Just let me put this stupid story right?”
“And what are going tell them? What ‘retraction’ could you possibly issue that the press will care enough about to publish?” Grace wiped her face as she listen and tried to think of a solution. “Oh, wait, I know ‘Hu-fucking-ray! Grace Novello is gay!’ That’s catchy. ‘It seems she’s been trying to tell the world that the woman often listed as her ‘very good friend’ Kirstin Hart is in fact the person she’s been fucking for’, oh I dunno, the past five years or so. Give or take a few break-ups.” Grace winced, Kirstin continued, “‘Despite the numerous romantic attachments to famous men we’ve been reporting, it appears they’re all gay too,’ that should do it, don’t you think?”
“You’re not being fair, and you’re not being rational.”
“Fair?” Kirstin looked at Grace’s hands still gripping her wrists, causing Grace to let go and try to capture her waist instead, which Kirstin grudgingly allowed despite herself. “Grace, it’s not fair that I’m the only hidden entity in your life. I just want to be able to kiss you in street if the mood takes me.”
Grace tried to make light of the remark, “Oh come on, even in New York there are places you wouldn’t do that!” she smiled, but Kirstin wasn’t about to be appeased.
“There’s is a big difference between being careful and being completely censored, G. I’m exhausted.”
As Grace listened she suddenly saw the physical manifestation of those very words in the face of the woman before her, the woman she adored. “Me too,” she admitted, swallowing hard.
A sense of calm took over Kirstin, she could feel the fear and pain in the woman trying to hold her. She wanted to put an end to it, but another band-aid wouldn’t be enough to hold them both together.
She reached up and brushed a strand of hair out of Grace’s eyes. “If anything it’s gotten worse here in New York, not better.” She told her, “We both have bigger jobs. The city’s smaller and filled with people who want to talk. We don’t even shop together any more, did you notice that?” The other women clenched her jaw, “Even when it’s Christmas, I can’t go shopping with you. I can’t take you to any parties, I can’t even go to the stadium with you more than once a frikkin year!”
“I know. It’s not what I want either.”
“The longer we’re together, the less time I can spend with you. There’s a whole world I want to see Grace, but I can’t seem to do it with you. We’re not sharing a life together. We’re still renting two apartments and pretending we’re not even living together for God’s sake!”
“Tell me what to do?”
It was Kirstin’s turn to swallow hard, her brow knitted together painfully. “No. Grace, I shouldn’t have to. And y’know, it’s also wrong for me to give you any kind of ultimatum,” she acknowledged. Grace felt the danger rising again. “You’ve had yet another year of telling me things will get better, things will change. But all they do is plateau until you fly too close to the edge and then your publicists rein you back in with some stupid press release. If you really want to change things, I’d advise you to start by sacking them.” She peeled herself from Grace’s arms. “But I can’t stick around to see if you will. I’m sorry.”
“That’s it?” Grace’s face tightened in disbelief, as her girlfriend pulled away, “One morning you wake up to bad press and it’s over?”
Finally Kirstin began to show the emotion that had been coursing through her, that she had rationalised and held back.
“Don’t you even TRY to make out like this is something that just happened—That I haven’t lived with and forgiven you for, over and over. This isn’t one day of bad press, Grace. God knows I love you with everything I have, and I have wanted nothing more than for this to work, but I can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep having this conversation. And either you don’t get why I’m so upset, or you just don’t care.”
“I get it, Kirstin, I get it!” Grace was annoyed that Kirstin insisted on making out that somehow everything was exactly as she would have it. “I just don’t know how to change it?!” she blew out a breath of frustration and hurt.
The blonde woman looked away. Her stillness echoed silently throughout the room, compounding the newscaster’s knowledge that they were so close to having very little left to say.
Kirstin’s eyes glazed over as she finally began to speak. Her voice sounded sore.
“Then maybe we both have to admit that you can’t? Maybe I’m asking for something that will never evolve, something impossible for you to promise. I just know that I can’t keep being angry about it.”
She brought her eyes back to Grace who found herself nodding wordlessly at the simplicity of Kirstin’s confession. She stood, and nodded, and frowned, and wiped away tear after tear as they fell effortlessly down her cheeks.
And Kirstin watched her, every second her heart breaking a little more, until finally Grace had her own confession to make.
“And I can’t keep making you this angry. I can’t keep hurting you. I can’t be the person that does this to you. It makes me ill, Kay. Every time someone pulls me aside to tell me about something I have to do, or some place I have to be seen, and they mention who I have to be seen with,” she took a breath, “…I feel sick all day at the thought of telling you. Sick at the thought of my disappointing you every time I turn you down. Sick because it’s not what I want, but I can’t change it. America’s not ready for the truth, and even if they were, the network doesn’t want to give it to them. I’m just a pawn. So long as my ratings are high, they keep paying me. This isn’t the movie business, I don’t get to turn forty or fifty and start looking for character roles.” She scrunched up her face.
Kirstin’s heart cracked again at the impossibility of the situation. She knew Grace was right, she even understood, and she didn’t blame her. But all that did was make it harder. “You’re the lead,” she said gently, “you’re too damn pretty to ever be incidental.”
Grace smiled sadly. “You’re really breaking up with me?”
“Again. Yes. I am. So long as you’re married to Cooper-Raine, you’re not mine.”
Grace nodded slowly, her breathing return to an even pace, despite the thumping of her heart. “Don’t shut me out?”
Kirstin winced painfully at the small plea from the headstrong woman.
“Not completely. Please? I can’t handle that. When you left California… I…” the newscaster pinched her lips together as she tried to explain, but there was no need, Kirstin understood.
“I promise. I won’t. I don’t want that either, Grace.”
Grace relaxed a little. She looked around the room in the awkwardness that inevitably followed the seeming finality of breaking-up, where in a second everything about life seemed to change, and yet remain the same.
The fans kept turning, the coffee was still wet and steaming on the kitchen surface, and the sun shone, defiantly.
“Can I have some breakfast before I leave?”
Kirstin took a deep breath and sighed. As the air rushed out it released all of the held tension within her, and finally her reserve broke. Tears began to streak her face as she gasped.
“Hey…” Grace finally pulled her closer, holding her tightly, pressing her cheek against her head, stroking her hair as Kirstin shook gently in her arms.
“I’m not giving up,” she muttered, mostly into the filmmaker’s hair, closing her eyes, breathing in the unmistakable scent that she was well aware would haunt her for a long time to come.
Kirstin pulled back to look at her, “Grace…”
“I know, I’m not… I heard what you said, okay? We’re breaking up. I’m just not giving up, not yet. Okay? That’s not something you have a say in. Maybe I drove you to a giving-up place, but I’m not there yet.”
She was pulled roughly, back into the embrace, the English woman burrowing her head deep into the nape of the American’s neck.
“Okay,” she mumbled against Grace’s skin.
“You’re not giving up. And you’re staying for breakfast.”
“But we’re not having break-up sex.”
Grace half-laughed, “We’re not?!”
Kirstin shook her head.
“Okay,” Grace allowed herself to cling a little closer to the women she knew she would have to relinquish.
But the women spoke again, “You lied,” she said in a small still muffled voice.
Grace frowned, “What?” she leaned back to look at her.
Kirstin lifted her head, “You said you weren’t giving up.”
Grace’s mouth opened to respond, but she didn’t know what to say. Her brow lifted momentarily as she tried to work out what she should say, until she realised what it was that Kirstin was trying to say.
“If we’re breaking up Kay, I… we really shouldn’t…”
“I know. I said we shouldn’t.”
After years of reading into Kirstin’s petulance, Grace knew all too well that sometimes ‘no’ really did mean ‘yes’.
The tenderness and want that she saw reflected in Kirstin’s eyes was all the encouragement she needed. She lent forward and captured the other woman’s lips with her own.
And so it was that Grace Novello remembered she could never, truly, not be involved with Kirstin Hart. That this woman had a hold over her that she had never had the will to escape, no matter how incorrigible she could be. She would find a way, and while she was doing so she would give Kirstin her much needed space.
Love should be enough. Why is it not enough?
You’re not truly over the last big thing ‘til you’re face to face with the next one
Kirstin felt the loss of Grace the way she always had. Her life was just as full, and just as fulfilling, but when something great happened, she had to stop herself from calling the one person she knew would understand exactly why it was so great. The stopping started at hard and was exponential towards extremely hard.
Their minds had worked in tandem for so long, and they shared so much personal history, that it was hard to contextualise life without mentioning her name, without wanting to involve her in it.
So for once, Kirstin didn’t. Instead of cutting Grace out, she let her in, just as she had asked. Not day-to-day, but week-by-week, and eventually month-to-month.
They would meet and go to dinner from time to time, be seen in their usual haunts. It helped keep the press off their backs by continuing to demonstrate their already established friendship, and it helped maintain the notion between them that somehow, they were not done yet.
Her apartment had become a very solitary place without Grace’s presence. The neighbours had learned slowly to ask after her less and less. Though none of them had ever formally acknowledged it, Kirstin knew they had known that she and Grace were a couple, and that it wasn’t something they had wished to be common knowledge. It was the same for many people in Kirstin’s life who were to all intents and purposes on the periphery. Some days that made it harder, when she wanted not to have to pretend like it had never happened, other days she was glad not to be asked about it.
Kirstin had initially plunged herself into her work, which was fairly easy to do, but gradually started going out a little more. She was thoroughly disheartened however by the sheer lack of potential, even on the New York movers and shakers scene. If they weren’t too keen, they were too popular, too busy, too arrogant, too cool, barely out of school, or had too much baggage. Her assistant had tried to set her up on some dates, mostly to get her head into the idea dating, and out of the idea of Grace, but all it did was remind her of how much she missed her.
Grace as always barely had time to eat, never mind date, and so it was very easy for one of their monthly meals or catch-ups to turn into a sleep over with benefits. They were both very aware how unhealthy it was, but it was what they did, at least until they didn’t. If either of them felt down, or needed the other, there would be a phone call, shortly followed by a visit. Before they knew it a year had passed of visits and dinners, and trying to let go, and they found themselves in pattern of meetings that seemed to work, and that they didn’t discuss or question. Each time both women expected it would probably be for the last time. In a strange way it was the very reason it wasn’t.
Kirstin was fully aware that she had swapped a dysfunctional ongoing relationship for a dysfunctional ongoing friendship that bordered on being an affair, but she had more control, and the freedom to look elsewhere without feeling guilty. It wasn’t what she wanted, but it was what she had, and it was all part of the weaning process in her mind.
She had been with Grace on and off for the last six years. She had grown up in many ways with Grace, not just emotionally, or professionally, but in her general outlook and ambitions. She had learned with Grace how wonderful and very hard a relationship can be, and she had finally realised that Grace could not give her the partnership she longed for. It was confusing trying to separate the person from the problem, but what Kirstin knew above all was that it made her deeply unhappy. She needed to know if no Grace at all truly was worse than selected Grace.
The romantic in her cried out “you should want to do anything to be with the one you love, shouldn’t you?” But somewhere along the line, the answer had become a resounding “No, not anything, not always, not anymore.” She had become tired of the constant battle, and she needed someone else to fight.
Part One: Idleworld
The pigeons are dead, the blind is fixed, you get up early anyway
Monday. Monday, Monday. It reminded her of a song. Now what was it? It reminded her of a few songs come to think of it. Monday. A lot of people wrote about that day, didn't they? Well at least she could spend a few hours flicking through some of the archives if she went in early, one of her favourite pastimes. Early. Wow, that's a strange concept. She couldn't actually remember the last time she could afford not to almost kill herself shooting down the stairs on her way to work. She would usually proceed to shout at every other commuter for dawdling. This could make for a nice change. But I shan't be making a habit of it.
Having found clothes she might manage to survive the day in—a short sleeved shirt and low fitting suit trousers—she slung her laptop bag and suit jacket over her shoulder and grabbed the keys to her yellow Datsun parked in the street below. She could feel the sun outside before it had even hit her. Closing the door behind her she marvelled at the notion that she could check her mail BEFORE she left the building for once.
The brown leather seats of Doris were definitely worthy of the quite vocal curses her blond owner cried as she settled herself into the driver's side.
“Why do I always go for looks?” she joked to herself, starting up the car and fondly patting the steering wheel as Doris obediently obliged with a dutiful and loyal roar. A car alarm started further down the road. Kirstin was mildly embarrassed, but only mildly.
The drive across town only took thirty minutes on a good day, and with time to spare Kirstin thought she'd try to take the view in along the way. The roads were filled with overheated executives trying to beat the traffic in expensive well-cooled cars. Slick and well groomed. Not unlike herself, but they were far more concerned with the day than she felt like being this morning. This was a luxury, and a rarity. She laughed at them internally, thoroughly realising that “they” would be her on any other day.
She wound down the sunroof and all the windows she could reach before hitting the carriageway, and waited for the cool rush of tepid air to hit her almost full in the face. This was the peaceful part of the journey. Unusually surrounded by green fields either side, she could clearly see the city looming ahead. It was awake and vibrant with a soft haze rising from it, which slightly blurred the buildings at the edges. Once again it was going to be like driving into a swamp, complete with warm, moist air. She sighed, vaguely wishing she could turn around and head for the hills in the other direction. The beach wasn't far from there and it was definitely more appealing right now than the prospect of her office, filled with fans that did little more than circulate the hot air a little faster than usual.
A rebellious streak suddenly struck her and she pulled over in to the hard shoulder, metres away from her exit.
“Suze? You in yet? Good. How'dya fancy moving the morning meeting somewhere a little more comfortable?”
8.30am meeting – let them talk
Goliath's was a cafe bar at the edge of town, in a pretty, rich district, full of arty wannabes being served by the very people they wanted to be. Kirstin loved the irony of that. Every waiter seemed to be an artist or an actor or a writer or a something just hoping for a break. They all weaved their way with drinks in and out through the vines that climbed the arbor above, barely shielding them from the white morning sun. Some of them were pleasant, some of them damn right hostile—Some of them knew you might be someone they wanted to know. It filled the air with a mixture of ambition and arrogance, creativity and sycophancy, a little bit of greed and a lot of drive with the very occasional droplet of bitterness. In short, it felt like home.
As usual the place was bustling with people. There was always something to distract the customers from their seemingly middle of the road morning coffee. And today was no exception as a small stream of industry people began making their way to a couple of tables reserved in the centre of the yard directly beneath the large fan hanging, and swaying, from the beams above.
“Take a seat.” Kirstin was chewing on one arm of her sunglasses absentmindedly as jackets were removed and chairs were scraped into place around her table.
“Order what you want,” she announced, “It's on me today. That includes breakfast for those of you that usually arrive with a fried egg sandwich to drip on my carpet”.
Her face was straight. Her humour could be dry to say the least.
A couple of sheepish looks passed around as she then grinned wryly at the newcomers. Suze kicked Josh under the table.
“Ow! You know you should watch it little lady…” rubbing at his shin, “you're stronger than you look." He pulled a pained face and stuck out his bottom lip.
“I'm stronger than you look too,” she joked, ignoring his pain. She poked him, “Go get a waiter, I'm starving.”
“Yes Miss,” he answered like a soldier, standing up only to be confronted with well-dressed waiter smiling at him. “Oh. Wow.” Sitting back down again, “There you go so Suze… I'm quick huh?”
“So I've heard,” she breathed sarcastically, looking past him and beginning to order food.
Kirstin shook her head as Josh shot her a deer-in-headlights-puppy-type look.
“Isn't it about time you two just got a room?” Kirstin mocked.
“Euuww.” He squirmed. “No, that would be WRONG.”
“Aha. Whatever.” Kirstin said dismissively, taking a sip of the creamy cappuccino that had been set down in front of her.
Kirstin had a certain affinity with Josh. Being Australian he was the only other Non-American on her crew, apart from herself. He wasn't exactly as well mannered and reserved as her more English sensibilities were used to, but he also wasn't as used to the brash, hard-nosed ways of this city and many of the people she had to work with. They often shared little foreigner's moments of pure confusion. It somehow prevented them from being completely assimilated. Apart from anything he was also a complete nerd, and Kirstin was a sucker for that.
She had a quick look around the table and made a mental note of absentees.
“Ok.” She raised her voice to get their attention. “I say we take this meeting slowly, I'm not in the mood for any quick fire rounds. Lets go round one by one, tell me the good and the bad, but lets save the ugly for now, okay?”
Breakfasts began to arrive and they all kicked back a little and began indulging in the food while going over their individual projects. Kirstin was happy to note that there was more good than bad and that most people seemed fairly happy with their work at the moment. She just hoped there was no ugly to contend with later.
Kate and Seth, who were working on the commercials their department had secured earlier that year, said they were ahead of schedule and would be ready for their next project by next week. James, Kirstin's favourite runner, had really enjoyed his part-time stint on location with one of the company’s larger crews and seemed to have a few stories to tell. Kirstin let him tell them.
A plate of eggs benedict found itself neatly placed in front of her. As far as Kirstin was concerned this indicated the end of the meeting. Food always came first when she was hungry and she would travel the length of the city to eat this particular dish.
As the group finished up Kirstin offered Suze a lift back to the office, which was snapped up.
“Anything not to have to get back on the train… ugh!”
“And I thought you just enjoyed my company,” laughed Kirstin.
Buy mum manual - note to self: always check caller ID before handing phone to Suze
The streets got more smoke filled and oppressive the further toward the centre they got. Thankfully their building, an old commercial mill, was just the right side of town where the buildings didn't loom quite so much and where you got actual sunlight even through the ground floor windows.
Nevertheless they were still stuck in a pile of traffic, but for some reason Kirstin didn't seem to mind. Perhaps it was because she felt she had already started her day.
Suze was not quite as relaxed as Kirstin, she was fidgeting around, poking about in the car looking for something to do. Eventually Kirstin suggested she go grab them a waffle each.
“But we just ate?!” Suze exclaimed.
“I know, but that was like an hour ago, and yes I'm full up with eggs, but I could definitely eat a waffle. And anyway you're disturbing my peace!”
Suze blushed slightly. “Sorry. I guess I could do with something sweet. I don't know where you store it all though…”
Just then the traffic started moving again and Kirstin's mobile rang.
“Shit!” she exclaimed. “Would you grab that first?”
“Sure.” Suze picked up the phone and answered in her best voice, “Kirstin Hart's phone?” There was a short pause. “Oh, hi Mrs Hart it's Suzy, how are you?”
Oh crap, thought Kirstin rolling her eyes, and winding down the window a little further for more air.
“No, Kirstin's driving at the moment, do you want me to get her to ring you back?” Kirstin was frantically signalling to Suze an emphatic no, which she seemed to ignore.
“Oh, ok, hang on,” Suze pulled the phone from her ear and turned to Kirstin. “She wants to know how to make the DVD player play a DVD?”
“What?!” asked Kirstin in awe of her mother. The traffic slowed again allowing Kirstin to take over the phone.
“Here, give her here…” Suze passed her the phone. “Hi mum. Yes I know you can hear me…” There was a short pause. “Did you turn it on?” Kirstin waited. “I'm not being patronising… lighten up, jeez!” Kirstin shot Suze a desperate look before continuing. “Ok, is it plugged in? Good. That's a start. No, I'm not driving, we're stuck in traffic.”
This went on for a few minutes. Suze was mightily impressed with Kirstin's patience. Having discovered that car next to them contained a rather cute guy in a crisp business suit she forgot all about the conversation and spent her time subtly flirting. And then not so subtly. Kirstin noted the proceedings between the two cars and sighed. Eventually Suze heard a noise down the phone that sounded like a shriek. She took this to mean that Kirstin's mother had been successful in making pictures come to life.
“Ok, good. Now will you PLEASE write that down so I don't keep getting these phone calls?”
The traffic started moving again, the car behind honked and revved.
“Look mum I have to go now, I have to drive. Yes, I know I said that, I wasn't at the time… I'm not being ratty, I'm just busy. Yes, yes I will. I love you too. What? Why? Ok, whatever. Bye.”
She passed the phone back to Suze who looked confused.
“She wants to talk to you,” Kirstin said putting the car into gear and shaking her head.
Suze was hesitant, “Hi Mrs Hart. Oh. Well, yes, yes I think so.” She studied Kirstin who glanced back and then looked uncomfortable. “Well she definitely eats enough Mrs Hart I can promise you that!” Kirstin winced. “No, no, far from it she doesn't put an ounce on, it's infuriating.” Kirstin could hear the muffled ramblings of her mother through the phone. “Well I send her home early as often as I can. Hm, now you know I'm not sure, she's really busy, but we try to get her out now and then. I'll keep you updated if anything happens. He's fine thanks, yes.”
Kirstin's face looked pained. She shouted in the direction of the phone “Mum, c'mon now, leave poor Suze alone, ok?
Suze laughed at her. “Ok Mrs Hart. Yes you too, enjoy your movie. Ok, bye now.”
Suze continued to giggle and then abruptly stopped and cleared her throat. “She wants to know where your 'love life' is at.”
“Oh, God. Indeed. Does she now?”
“Ok, now I definitely need a waffle!” Kirstin pulled up again as the lights changed to red. “Having fun there were you?” she mocked.
“What?” asked Suze.
“Back there.” Kirstin tilted her head in the direction of the large black shiny estate that was now a little further behind them. Suze just smiled.
Go through figures–sort finances
The buttons on the lift bore various logos that were lit dimly through the dirt that had been ingrained on them over the years. He hit the green one marked ‘idleworld’ and with a clunk the small iron cage obliged.
Kirstin Hart, director, 28, 5 ft 7. That was what her file had said. It had also said she was well accomplished, came with eight years experience, five of those with the company and three of those were managing the idleworld accounts. Fairly impressive he had to admit. What it didn't say was: Kirstin Hart, a bobbed blond who had seriously wicked grin, a laugh that can only be described as infectious, and a voice that had enough power to carry it the hundred yards from the office in which she sat on the forth floor of the Madison building right down the old wooden hallway to the even older cage lift which had just opened with a ping. Don smiled to himself. Perhaps it was pride.
“Kaye, honestly, I swear I thought he was gonna choke, man.”
Kirstin was doubled over her desk unable to respond due to her stomach convulsing.
“Why would you film that?” he continued, shaking his head.
Not looking up she waved her hand in the air to cease Josh's story before she could take no more. He grinned at her as she gasped for air and then swivelled round in his chair to face the door having heard footsteps approach. The office phone rang.
“Hell-oo?” Kirstin answered through a hiccupped breath. She cleared her throat a little. “What?” And sat up. “Here?” She shook her head and looked around at her desk. “Fuck. Is he here now?”
From somewhere behind her she heard Josh clear his throat loudly and her back tensed fearing the worst.
She hung her head briefly. Closing her eyes and pulling a face she reluctantly turned round and found herself staring right at the handsome face of fifty-something Don Sullivan, chief of finance for Crater Films. He was leaning against the doorframe with a dour frown hanging from his forehead. Her assistant Suze was standing just behind him with one hand over an eye in desperation.
“Yes, I can see.” Kirstin breathed down the phone, still looking at Don, who merely looked right back at her.
She bit her bottom lip apologetically. Don was not her boss. He was far more important. Don held the purse strings to each and every project Kirstin wanted financing. She had a hard enough time as it was trying to squeeze money from him without him walking into her office while it was in a state of disarray and witnessing her profanities. She inwardly winced at the thought. Don was also her father's friend, and he wasn't a man who wanted to be seen to do family favours. She was acutely aware that this wasn't the best illustration of her competence, and it would not, she was certain, help her win this current bid.
She really wanted to make a move on this script.
Fuck. Fuckety fuck fuck.
Kirstin had the vague impression that things hung in the balance. All three of them held their breath waiting for Don to comment. Yet Don simply stood there and sighed, shaking his head at her playfully. Kirstin relaxed a little, she was grateful, yet remained apprehensive. They all took a silent breath, and continued to wait for him to speak.
“You're very lucky I told Hilary to wait for us downstairs young lady,” he chided. “This all looks rather less than professional…” he glanced around the room in front of him, paperwork covering every available surface, VHS tapes, DVDs, and reels of film haphazardly piled against any available wall.
Kirstin sighed and replaced the phone on its hook.
“Jeez Don, I'm sorry. I had no idea you…” she searchingly gestured into the air, her head moving too quickly for her mouth. She stopped to clarify, “…if I'd'a known you were coming, much less bringing Hilary, I would've…” truth was she had no idea what she would have done if she'd known Hilary was making an appearance.
“Tidied your office?” Don offered.
She nodded woefully, “At the very least.”
“Right. Well maybe that still might happen…” he glanced briefly behind him at Suze, who immediately understood the implication and gave Kirstin a reassuring nod. “Meantime we'd better take you out for lunch, you look like you haven't eaten properly in days.”
Kirstin raised her brow. Suze suppressed her laughter, just. It wasn't like Don to make such a personal comment, and lunch on the company wasn't a luxury often afforded to the people who worked in the cutting and splicing rooms found in her building. She was somewhat confused, but thought better than to question it at this moment in time.
“Right, okay, yes, I'll… um, just grab my coat.”
She pushed away from the desk she had been leaning on and disappeared off through the video room leaving Josh and Suze with Don.
Suze slipped past Don who sidled out of her way with an apology. Josh just stared at him. He found he could do nothing else. He knew it was rude but he couldn't help himself.
Don Sullivan was infamous, both hardworking, and hard-nosed. He was the man who knew what made money for the company and was very, very good at making the company that very money. A shrewd businessman, hardened through years of watching great films make nothing but a loss. Friendly he was not. His time was precious, and usually it showed. So for Don Sullivan to be so casually dropping by like this was perturbing to say the least. He tried to recall the last time he'd actually seen 'the great Don' so close up. It must have put a strange look on his face.
“Something wrong son?” Don asked politely.
Josh shook himself back, “Um, nope. No sir. Ah-ah.”
This made Don smile. He was aware of just how odd it must be to see him in this part of town, never mind this building, and not even in a suit. Tut tut. His guard was down, he couldn't have that. He may be about to bring good news to this little office, but he couldn't have them thinking he was soft now, could he?
“Don't you have something to be doing?” he barked gruffly.
Josh's eyes widened. “Uh. Yes, absolutely,” he stood up, “I was just waiting on some prints…” he mumbled excusing himself and heading through the same door Kirstin had.
Don shook his head amiably, wondering how this office managed to run at all, never mind come up with the goods on cue. And yet they did, he told himself. Every time. The ball hadn't been dropped once since little Kay had started. They were better than good. He smiled to himself. Kirstin deserved this, he knew that. And so did her crew. He just hoped she would see it for the opportunity it was, rather than the cop out he thought she'd feel it was.
Suze stood holding up Kirstin's jacket on her little finger and tilted her head to one side. “Looking for this?”
Kirstin stopped over turning things in the projection room and turned round.
“Oh jeez, thanks Suze.” She sighed, regarding her assistant. “Why is my stomach churning?” she rubbed the offending area.
Suze smirked at her. “Because,” she said simply, “Don doesn't take just anyone for lunch. And possibly because Hilary never lunches?” She suggested, watching the realisation dawn on Kirstin. “Or maybe Don's right, and you're just REALLY hungry?” She waved the jacket at her again.
“Oh boy.” Kirstin shook her head and took her coat from Suze, “Wish me luck…” she said, and headed for the door with a groan.
“Good luck!” Suzy hissed after her hoping Don wouldn't hear.
Don hadn't heard, he'd been too busy nosing over Kirstin's desk to even notice her return. She hesitated before announcing her presence, quietly contemplating what he might have found scattered across her desk that might cause such interest. She coughed slightly so as to allow Don adequate time to extract himself from his over-bent occupancy of her papers, but he made no excuse of the fact as he turned to meet her gaze.
“I'm all yours,” she stated, moving to pick up her laptop, which she shouldered.
Don pursed his lips as his eyes flicked back briefly to a document before him. “Indeed.” Came the response. Then eyeing the item she had just picked up, “You won't be needing that.”
Break for lunch (whoop!)
Hilary Macy was what Kirstin would term as regal. She had a manner at once calm and aloof. She seemed to speak very little, and yet say so much. Kirstin had only ever seen her to look at before, generally from a distance, and often over the barriers of executive areas at screenings she'd managed to crash one way or another. The one and only time she had been introduced to Mrs Macy was when she had run an errand for Don to the main offices uptown delivering an urgently needed tape. That was in her first year working for Crater Films. She had felt small and inconsequential then, and as she and Don cornered the last corridor to the lobby, she felt small and inconsequential all over again.
In the white light of the lobby there stood a woman who somehow seemed out of place in the urban decay all around her. She was eyeing some of the work hung on the walls nearby the reception desk, tilting her head slowly from one side to the other, peering closely at the prints that were hung there. They were mostly stills from films that had been made by the crews within the building. There were some old, some new. It was hard to tell whether they pleased her or not, nonchalance emanated from her every pore. As did a certain kind of elegance. Hilary was intimidating it was fair to say. This was heightened by the fact she wasn't trying to be.
Karen, the receptionist, was staring at Hilary with a worried expression that she quickly tried to hide with a brief grin as the executive swung her head round to meet her eye. She obviously scared the Be-Jesus out of her. There followed an awkward moment broken only by Karen's grateful awareness of Don and Kirstin's arrival. Hilary's eyes followed the path of Karen's.
A warm smile greeted them both. It unnerved Kirstin slightly. A fact that didn't seem to go unnoticed.
“Miss Hart,” Hilary extended her hand in Kirstin's direction.
She was taken aback.
She remembers me?
“Good to see you again.”
Yes, she remembers me.
“And you… Mrs Macy,” she just about managed not to swallow, tentatively meeting her hand, which was rewarded with gentle shake from a firm grip.
Kirstin had to mentally shake herself for the second time that morning, “to what do I owe the pleasure?”
There followed a lop-sided smirk at the edge of the older woman's lips as she relinquished her hand.
“We have plans for you Miss Hart,” she drawled, “and we would very much like to discuss them with you…”
Kirstin looked to Don for a translation, but he simply smiled at her again.
You coy old man.
Hilary continued, aware of a receptionist listening in behind her. “We thought you might enjoy lunch out today, that is if you've nothing more pressing?”
Kirstin realised Hilary was consciously maintaining an air of mystery and decided to play along.
“Well now, what could be more pressing than a personal visit from the two biggest slices of cheese this side of the city?”
Hilary spat out a laugh and followed it with a warm low rumble of a giggle, obviously delighted at this blatant show of nonconformity. Her age seem to slip from her face as she smiled. Don beamed at her in disbelief.
“I couldn't have stated it more flatly myself.” Hilary nodded, “Admirable, admirable! I'll take that as an acceptance to my offer of lunch.”
Kirstin breathed an inward sigh of relief, fearing she might have crossed a line. Instead it seemed she had made a good impression. Not usually one of her strengths she thought. Kirstin nodded, “How could I refuse?”
“Quite easily my dear, trust me,” Hilary breathed, turning from her to head for the door, “most people that get invited for lunch are generally being relieved of either their budget, or their jobs…”
Kirstin had known there was a good reason for her anxiety at meeting Hilary, and suddenly she remembered why. Most people only got to meet her once.
Hilary was already headed for the door by the time this thought had fully registered and Don was gesturing Kirstin to follow her. She suddenly realised she'd been holding her breath, inhaling deeply she followed Hilary out to the large car she could now see waiting outside the door. Oh boy.
As they pulled up outside the restaurant and Kirstin tried hard not to look too impressed. But she was. Undeniably. This wasn't just any restaurant. This was The Erikai, one of the most well known places in the city. It was internationally acclaimed for the best food, the best service, and the coolest clientele. Kirstin knew this because she had once spent six months on a waiting list for a table. It was a memorable evening, and suddenly she was rather happy she and the girls had stuck out the wait, which she had always thought was worth it. It meant she wouldn't look like a fresher at a fair.
The door to their car was opened for them and they were escorted to the entry hall where her coat was taken from her by a waiter. A waiter she recognised.
“Good afternoon, Madam,” he said politely, a twinkle in his eye. “Good to see you back again, it's been a while.”
He was perfectly charming and she was grateful as she suddenly got a flash back of spirits and laughter and playing cards? Yes, we had played cards, in the bar room. Now what was his name? Hm.
She smiled pleasantly. “I've been very busy,” she chatted back to him, noting Hilary seemed rather impressed that she was so familiar with the place, and the staff. Hilary may be able to get a table at a moments notice, but she hadn't been afforded jovial conversation with the headwaiter. Jimmy. That was it.
The truth was this was only the second time Kirstin had been here, but Kirstin never failed to make a lasting impression in people's minds it seemed. She remembered asking the waiter all kinds of questions about the menu, the architecture, and the guests. The service they had received that evening was impeccable.
“You obviously work too hard Madam.” He joked.
“Undoubtedly,” added Don. “Undoubtedly.”
With that they were shuffled through to the great dining room. And it really was great. This was the real reason Kirstin had wanted to dine here in the first place.
The ceilings were spectacularly and quite pointlessly high, covered in arches with different carvings on each and every rose head, all kinds of gargoyles and animals. The walls were covered in dimmed, highly carved mirrors separated by huge lengths of velvet curtaining that hung from the ceiling. The whole place was a mixture of art deco gothic gold with strange object-das everywhere. Even in the afternoon the place was entirely lit by what were apparently candles. Kirstin knew however they were all being fooled by clever imitations. Not that she was fire conscious, just curious.
Each table had a different but equally elegant lamp in the centre, ornate, fringed and low-lit. Indeed, each and every Victorian or Edwardian dining chair was different, though upholstered in the same luxurious bottle green or crimson fabric. The place was full even at this time and impeccably dressed, handsome waiters carrying huge silver trays were swooping through the tables with practiced skill.
As they were seated Kirstin gladly remembered that just as much attention had been paid to the menu as had been paid to the décor and the staff. Her stomach rumbled in anticipation.
Cutting to the chase was something Hilary was renowned for, and she was not to disappoint today. Having dispensed with the every day chit-chat of the menu and the wine and the weather, she paused and began.
“Miss Hart, do you know who John Renolds is?”
Kirstin quickly did a mental rundown. “Head of documentary,” she said, “specialising in music, right?”
Hilary smiled. “That's exactly right. Well.” She paused. “Almost exactly right. That is to say, that is who he WAS. John resigned last night. I say resigned. We paid him to leave. And to take his indiscretion with him, I don't mind telling you that.” She watched Kirstin's face as she took on board the news.
“John has left us with one or two projects over running and a rather large position to fill. We need to recruit and fast, but more importantly we need to keep the crews on the jobs they know and try get them all in on time.”
Kirstin waited patiently unsure of where this was headed.
“The long and indeed the short of it is, Miss Hart, that we have a rather large, specialised contract to fulfil and all usual options are otherwise engaged. We could in theory disengage one of them to take this project on board, and that was our original plan, until it was suggested to me that we did indeed have an alternative, someone in house, with far too much talent to go to waste and more than enough experience.”
Kirstin looked blank.
“I mean you,” she spelled out.
“Yes. I realise.” A breath. “I'm sorry I was too busy being flattered to really understand what you're trying to tell me.”
Hilary was in turn strangely flattered at Kirstin's response. She wasn't used to people genuinely seeking her approval. She smiled briefly before continuing.
“I'm sure you must've heard rumours that John was sketching out details for feature length band documentary?” It wasn't really a question, she didn't wait for a response. “He had some grand notion of it being a social comment and so on. All fascinating I'm sure.” Her derision was evident. “Well, we had hoped without John on board the company would want to drop it. Personally I can't quite see how we could make it our own with the terms they have stipulated. It seems, however, that we are contracted and they wish to hold us to it. Six months. Or thereabouts.” She paused, and then lowered her voice, “We'd like you to be our saviour.”
“I'm sorry. What?”
“You have experience in live broadcasts and documenting,” Hilary explained, “a great eye, a rich style and a reputation for finding interesting detail Miss Hart. You also seem to be able to turn, pardon the phrase, shit into silver. You have not gone unnoticed.”
Kirstin was shocked to hear Hilary swear, and also a little confused. The project John had been prepping was for a high paying client that he often worked closely with, as far as she knew. It also was an area she didn't know very well and she was sure there must be better-suited candidates more closely linked to take over the project.
Don, who was also taken aback by Hilary's use of words, could see her perplexity. He cleared his throat.
“We sent them your reels Kirstin. Not just yours, but a group of reels from various candidates. You were our first choice, and, it seems, you were also their first choice. So everything would work out swimmingly if you'd agree to do it.”
“But I don't want to document.” Kirstin said honestly, fully aware this was not the answer they were looking for.
Hilary took a deep breath. “Yes,” she said. “Yes, I'm aware of that. It seems you want to continue to branch out in the movie side of the business.” She wasn't quite mocking, but Kirstin could feel that Hilary thought her frivolous somehow.
She stood her ground. “I want to shoot fiction, yes.” She confirmed.
Hilary smiled, pleased it seemed that Kirstin did not want to back down. “Don tells me you have a script and a proposal that you are preparing in order to bid for our annual grant?” she raised her chin inquiringly.
“So, it seems you have something we want and we have something you want…” Hilary tailed off leaving the comment hanging there for conclusions to be drawn.
Kirstin didn't bite. Not immediately. All three of them were silent. They continued to eat. Kirstin had been trying for the most part of their lunch to work out whom it was that Hilary reminded her of. It was somewhere in her voice and it had just struck her who it was. Katherine Hepburn. Yes. Definitely. That drawl she has going on. Her apparent flippancy. Kirstin was pleased. She liked Katherine Hepburn very much. After another mouthful Kirstin finally gave Hilary what she was after.
“So, basically what you're saying is: If I do this for you, you'll give me my funding?” Kirstin wanted to get the implication out in the open.
Hilary raised her left eyebrow slightly. “Yes. I suppose you could look at it that way.” She replied honestly, smiling a little to herself.
This girl grew more on her from minute to minute. Perhaps it was her attitude or her lack of concern regarding Hilary's position. She was beginning to think however that it was because she saw a little of herself looking back at her.
“That's the way I want to see it.” Kirstin continued.
Yes. It was definitely the latter Hilary thought as she nodded at her in admiration.
At this point Don felt the need to interject, “We can't write that on the contract though, you do realise that?” he seemed to become a little uncomfortable. He looked at them both in turn.
“Well obviously, Don.” Hilary half snapped, “But then legally we cannot change a contract that Kirstin has already signed without her say so…”
Don frowned. Kirstin was also a little unsure of where this was going.
“I'm not really sure of what you're getting at Hilary?” Don questioned.
“Well,” she continued, “you and I have no intention of replacing Kirstin correct?”
Don spluttered “Well of course not!”
“I think you misunderstand me, Don. I mean we have no intention of replacing her role at Crater Films while she's away covering our backsides for us?” she looked to him for recognition.
“Oh, right, well no, unless she feels we need to?” He looked at Kirstin who shrugged.
Hilary picked up again. “Well what I'm saying is: We can't offer you money for a proposal that we've not even seen yet, and thus we can't guarantee you'll get your funding per se, it would be unfair. But that said so long as you're still acting as head of Crater Films you should still be paid as Head of Crater Films.”
Don pleaded uncharacteristically, “Oh, Hilary please cut to the chase, I'm too old for this verbal puzzlement.”
She laughed at him amiably. “I'm prepared to pay you two wages Kirstin.”
Kirstin was a little taken aback. Nothing of money had yet been discussed.
“And six to eight months on John Renold's wage should be enough to begin funding your little project right? It would act as a kind of goodwill gesture on our behalf that we will seriously look at your proposal once your bid is ready.”
“Wait, wait, wait…” Kirstin interrupted, “let me get this straight. You're telling me that you'll pay me John's salary as WELL as my own?”
“Correct.” Hilary said precisely. “And when it's complete we'll look at your script and see what we can do about the funding.”
Well now. Suddenly this was looking a little more attractive wasn't it?
Kirstin's head was spinning a little as she got out of the car and headed back through the main doors of Crater Films. She had shaken Hilary's hand seconds before leaving the car. Hilary was pleased. Don was pleased. She was…
What had she just done? She had left the land of documentaries a long time ago, and in many ways she felt like it was a huge step backward. However she could realistically afford to fund her movie independently afterwards even if they didn't offer her the funding. The problem was that not only had she made the decision for herself, she had also made it on behalf of what were essentially her employees, a thought which had only just struck her. Oh boy.
She would want to work with the people she trusted, but would they want to do it? Crap. And even if they didn't she was effectively leaving those that stayed behind to hold the fort while she was away. Her stomach suddenly turned with a combination of excitement and worry.
Dive in the deep end – why the frig not, eh?
Closing the elevator door she pushed the glowing green button. She had approximately one minute to work out how she was going to broach this topic. Clunk, clunk. Touring was one thing. Clunk. Not something she particularly wanted to do, but touring with an unknown team, that sounded positively horrendous. She just hoped her team wanted the feature as much as she did. Clunk, clunk, click. It was a lot to ask. Ping. But she had to.
It seemed extraordinarily quiet on the floor as she headed down the corridor. Then she realised how late it must be. Most of the day-to-day activities would have shut down for the night. She pushed open the door to her office and stepped inside. The door was neatly closed behind her by Suze. She smiled and ran back to her seat, waiting eagerly. Josh was sitting in a similar position. They watched her, like dogs that had brought back a stick to be thrown.
Kirstin laughed at them both. She couldn't help it. And then took a look at the incredibly tidy room that was surrounding them. Wow.
“Well?” Suze ignored the laughter, as well as the obviously impressed look that was spreading across Kirstin’s face. She was impatient, and excited. “What happened? Are we getting lots of money? What do they want? What did they say? Are they giving us money??”
Josh seemed happy to let Suze ask all the questions and just nodded along with her eagerly.
“Whoa. Whoa, girl!” Kirstin held up her hands to stop her talking. She took off her coat and threw it on a nearby desk, took a breath and turned to them. “Ok. Well. Yes…” she paused, still searching for the words.
“Yes what?” Josh butted in.
“Yes, I think we're going to get our funding,” she replied.
“Yes!” shouted Suze, jumping out of her chair and punching the air. “Yes! I KNEW it!”
Josh was a little more reserved. “Wait, what do you mean you think?” he asked.
Here we go.
“Ok.” Kirstin pulled up a chair to join them, Suze sat back down again and looked concentrated. “Well, see, we kinda have to work for it.”
Suze and Josh both looked blank, spurring Kirstin to explain further.
“It's kinda bribery I guess, though I'm not exactly sure who bribed whom. They want me to follow up on John Renold's project.”
“The documentary guy?” asked Josh.
“The very same.” Kirstin confirmed. “It seems he committed an act of indecency or something,” she skirted over the point, “anyway he's moved on to 'pursue other things' and left them with a running project.”
“I heard about that… did they say what he did?” Suze liked a bit of gossip.
“No, well, not exactly. But well let us say he's not the only person that has left the company…”
Suze's eyes widened in comprehension, “I see,” she nodded and though obviously burning to know more it was not the most important item on the agenda. “So what has this got to do with our film?”
Kirstin reasoned that it was better to tell the story as she had heard it. After all, that approach had worked on her hadn't it? “They want me to fill in the gap he's left.”
“Huh?” Josh shot a sideways glance at Suze who returned it.
“That doesn't sound like good news Kirstin?” Suze declared.
“Well. No. That's what I thought,” she noted the worried expressions that were growing on each of their faces, “at first. But it's only temporary.” She assured them. “Basically they need someone with experience to head the project he's left behind, and I need someone to fund our script.” She left the idea hanging there for them to pick up, just as Hilary had done three hours earlier.
“So if you do this, we can make our film?” ventured Josh.
“It's a little more complicated than that, but essentially, yes Josh.”
Suze piped up, “Why do I get the feeling there's a bigger stinger in this than us losing you for however many weeks?”
Kirstin bit her bottom lip.
“Kirstin?” Suze pushed her as her worry grew.
“Ok. For a start it's not weeks, it's months. Maybe up to eight.”
“WHAT?!” exclaimed both Suze and Josh in varying degrees of soprano and bass.
“No-one can cover for that long, that's ridiculous!” cried Suze, clearly upset.
“Ok, first off that's not true,” chided Kirstin “you're all more than capable, and second,” here was the worst bit, “they're not going to replace me.”
Josh started laughing with an edge of hysteria. “Ok, you gotta be joking?” Kirstin's face remained fixed. “We're expected to run things while you're away?”
“Not exactly,” she said.
Suze lowered her voice “What d'ya mean?”
Kirstin took another deep breath, “I want you both to come with me. On the project.”
Once again Josh and Suze exchanged sideways glances. They were both curious and cautious.
Suze was first to speak. “Ok, back up the truck.” She motioned, “What exactly IS this project? I thought the guy made mini-documentaries?”
“He does, or did. Except this one's not so mini. It's a full-scale publicity film documentary about a band that are about to go on a world tour.”
“A world tour?” Suze repeated with almost disbelief.
“Yes.” Kirstin answered a little apprehensively.
“A world tour for eight months?” Suze clarified.
“Yes.” Kirstin nodded. “Well the tour itself is six months, but yes.”
“When?” asked Josh who had been quietly contemplating.
“Next week.” Kirstin winced. She herself was not too impressed with the timing.
Suze was blasé, “Sure next week. Yeh. Figures.”
“And you're definitely going?” asked Josh.
“Definitely.” There was no turning back for Kirstin now.
Suze turned to her seriously, “Do we actually have a choice Kirstin?”
“Yes.” She breathed, relieved that this was true. She didn't want to pressurise anyone. “You don't have to come. You can stay here and keep things going. But before you make any snap decisions I should mention that I managed to get everyone that agrees to come quite lucrative offers.”
“Money?” asked josh with interest.
“Yes,” answered Kirstin, a little worried at the notion of being offered something else that would be considered lucrative, “I mean I know it's not the most important thing,” she looked at him reproachfully, “but it certainly helps, right?” She continued since they both seemed to expect her to elaborate. “Not only would you get a touring salary, as normal, including all expenses paid, but since no-one's job is to be replaced while they're away anyone who decides to come will continue to get their basic salary too.”
Suze realised that was a good deal, but thought it a little impossible, “But how can we do two jobs at once?” she asked.
“Ah, here's the beauty of it. You won't really be doing two jobs because as of next week we're going to be winding down production on the last remaining projects we have so that we can begin to prep for the feature.”
“Really?!” Josh was excited.
“Mmm Hmm,” she hummed. “John didn't have a permanent crew, he hired from across the company as and when he needed staff because his work schedules varied in size. If we had won our bid we would be winding down anyway and would have staff to spare, so it all seems to make sense. Obviously I can't force people to come on board. I need to draw up a list of my choices and start asking round. You two are first on my list.”
There was a moment's silence as they both took on board what she was asking.
“I'll do it.” Josh said almost without hesitation.
“I want you both to think about it properly before you answer. You need to take a look at the dates and the contracts. If you come there'll only be a few opportunities to holiday home and so on. There's a lot you'll miss out on. I have no idea what you already have planned.”
“I'll do it Kirstin.” He repeated. “This is my life, this is what I do. I don't have anything to hang around here for. I spend all my time with you two anyway! Plus, it kinda sounds like fun.” He looked at Suze who thinking.
She turned from him to face Kirstin. “I'm gonna need more time to think about this than Mr Spontaneity here,” she half apologised.
“That's ok Suze, I understand.” Kirstin pushed off her seat and stood up, “Look, let me work out the dynamics and logistics of this whole mess today, and tomorrow we can all take a day and decide what our roles are going to be? Ok?”
They all agreed, and with that she headed out into the back to sit at her computer and scratch her head and wonder once again what the fuck she had let herself into.
Four days. Am I mad? Four days to get a viable team together and to convince them to come. Then two days to set the whole thing up. It was ludicrous. Thoroughly. She began to feel she had had a little too much wine.
more less coffee. Definitely less.
Kirstin had spent the entire evening working with schedules and speaking with all the various contacts. She had worked out a plan of the roles she needed filling and lists of names next to them with the occasional backup where she thought she might need it. She had written proposals, worked out figures and had contracts ready. It had taken most of the evening and she had decided to take what she could home with her. Time was of the essence as she needed a crew confirmed by Friday morning at the latest to allow her to set up travel and accommodation arrangements. That didn't give people much opportunity to way up the options she was aware, but she thought that given the financial reward most would take her up. She hoped that wouldn't be they only incentive though.
There was to be a small crew made up mostly of Crater employees that would be on the tour almost full-time, and then a larger crew for the opening night and other live events along the route. Her head hurt. It was still warm outside and a light breeze coming through the open patio door caught the edge of one of the contracts she was working on, lifting it up and sending out into the living room. Kirstin sighed and tried to rub the sleepiness from her eyes. She got up to close the doors that led out onto the shared decking area, pausing briefly to breathe in the cool fresh air first. Drawing the curtains she admitted she needed a break. She left her computer in favour of a big comfy brown leather sofa onto which she flopped without much grace.
Kirstin felt satisfied that she had made a lot of progress in such a short space of time. She was fairly up to speed with the tour dates and the venues, and had plotted the journey from beginning to end with crew and equipment needs. There was just one real problem she could for-see. The travelling.
Most of the journeys could be made on the ground as the tour had been very well organised. She noted there were few cities that didn't follow a decent and direct path from the last, but this was a world tour, and that meant at some point there would inevitably be airplanes involved.
Kirstin hadn't flown for a very long time. Not quite long enough for her to forget however. Unfortunately. It was the one thing she tried to avoid at all costs. In the past she had always managed to find alternative methods. It usually meant that she had to drive long distances, but most people didn't question it. In this day everyone had a foible; it seemed everyone was living on the edge of some disorder or another, and so a dislike of flying was quite minimal. No-one ever questioned why she disliked planes, they just accepted it. She was grateful for that, though she was also aware that a lot of people thought she was just silly
She had it in her head she would be able to avoid the vast majority of the flying, and if they had to work without her for a few days until she caught up, then that's what they'd have to do, wasn't it?
Yes. They'll be fine. It'll be ok.
The weather report was on TV so she turned it up while stretching every possible muscle in her body. As she overheard the young female reporter talking of record heat waves she heard a scratching at her patio door.
“Not now Gullivar, I don't have anything in.”
The scratching rhythmically continued.
“Oh, jeez, where are you when those damned pigeons are pissing me off, eh?”
Reluctantly she dragged herself up and traipsed over to pull back the curtain and open the door just enough for the big black cat to squeeze in. He lazily winked at her and sauntered over to the leather beanbag set by the coffee table. Before he took up his usual position he paused noticing Kirstin was headed to the larder which he knew contained the fridge. He padded over to her instead.
Gullivar was a heavyset, big boned cat with unusually dark eyes. He looked cuddly, but rarely wanted cuddling. He had one day appeared at Kirstin's door with a rip in his ear and a mouse in his mouth. Still alive she had noted. He dropped it in her house and seemed more than reluctant to catch it again. She had tried to chase them both out, but only the mouse seemed willing. Gullivar merely sat there in triumph, as though he needed to show someone what he'd done. He sat there, and sat there. And bled. It was the bleeding that spurred Kirstin to act. A big black hairy cat in her apartment was one thing. A bleeding one was another. So she cleaned him up and let him stay until he felt a little better. Then he was gone. She didn't see him until the next month when he arrived once again at her door, this time carrying a small bird, which he had also neglected to put out of its misery.
This went on for some months until it had become a regular occurrence. He didn't always bring gifts, but each time he did it was something Kirstin had to release back into the wild. She got the feeling he felt he deserved something for his efforts, and so despite herself she had taken to keeping some cat food in, just in case he turned up.
And here he was. She turned to look at him.
“You're after my milk, huh?” she narrowed her eyes at him. He simply sat there and looked at her nonchalantly. Kirstin grumbled “Ah what the heck,” and grabbed him a saucer, pouring him a little milk after seeing to her own glass. He leapt up to partake and she stroked him affectionately.
“You know that stuffs not good for you, right?” she poked him. “It's good for me but not for you… in fact, it’s probably not even good for me…”
She left him in the kitchen and flicked both the TV and the lights off.
“And I've not been shopping so that's all you're getting today, ok?” she told him.
Gullivar licked his lips and sprang down from the kitchen top. For such a big cat he was very nimble indeed. Kirstin thought of him as a bit of a vagabond. No real home. She wondered how many people thought he was their cat. Judging by his size she wouldn't be surprised if he had four or five houses on the go at all times. She smiled to herself as his snuggled down on the beanie and purred.
She almost envied him. “That's it fella, that's exactly how I feel.” He yawned at her. She yawned back and then laughed.
“I know yawning is infectious but I had no idea is was cross species!”
Kirstin left him to the living room and headed up the wooden loft stairs to bed. She was going to need all the sleep she could get she decided.
The next morning Kirstin booted up her office Mac to a flood of email responses from the previous day. She responded to each email that had expressed any interest in the tour with an attached schedule and a copy of the contract for whichever position they were up for. Suze and Josh arrived to work as usual on time to find their boss already hard at it. They were astonished at the sheer volume of work Kirstin had managed to do in a single evening.
“And what time did you call it a night?” Suze asked peering over Kirstin's shoulder at the stack of paper work Kirstin had brought in with her that morning.
“I have no idea.” Kirstin admitted turning to look at her and rubbing her eyes.
Suze merely sighed and began picking up the cups of half drunk coffee that had apparently managed to accumulate on Kirstin's desk over the past twenty-four hours.
“This isn't the answer you know?” she said shaking a mug at her boss.
Kirstin nodded slowly, “I know,” she said “but it's helping right now.”
Suze seemed to accept that. “Well I won't tell your mum.”
“Ah shit!” Kirstin cursed remembering she promised to call her. Suze raise her eyebrows knowingly and decided to leave her to it.
Making long distance calls was quite common from the office, but personal calls were supposed to be kept to a minimum. Kirstin reasoned she didn't much have a choice right now since the next few days, and indeed the next week or two were going to be incredibly stressful and hectic. If she was lucky her mum would be back from wherever she had been lunching by now.
“Kay! How lovely to hear from you!”
“We spoke yesterday mum…”
“Yes, yes I know that, but we didn't talk, that was just your mother pressing you for unimportant instructions about a DVD player she still can't seem to figure out on her own.”
Kirstin laughed. “So how's the farm?” This question launched a whole series of stories about what her mother was up to, and all the gossip of the village back in Surrey, England where her mother still lived. Kirstin kicked back and just allowed herself to be carried along. It would be a while before she could catch up properly like this again.
Continued in Part 2
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